He Likes That

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This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.

I know someone who works in advertising, and on his first week on the job, years ago, a more seasoned copywriter took him aside to give him advice. They were both on their way to the creative director's office, to pitch him some ideas for a new campaign.

"Now, listen, when you pitch your stuff to the big guy," the copywriter said, "don't put on a big razzle dazzle. Don't make a big sales thing. Jim hates that. Hates it. Just go in there, take your copy, put it on his desk, and let him read it. Don't say a word."

So my friend goes into the office with his copy, walks up to the creative director's desk, gently puts it down in front of him, and waits.

The creative director looks baffled, irritated, picks up the copy, gives it a desultory read, then puts it aside.

"Okay," he says. "I've read that." And then he turns to the more seasoned copywriter. "What have you got?"

"Well, Jim," says the copywriter, "here's what I've got." And then he springs to life. "Fade In. A golden morning. The dew-flecked wheat tosses and waves in the gentle breeze. And then...what's that? A simple melody, on the piano. It's warm, like the morning sunlight. And then, into frame, a glistening silver Greyhound bus. A handsome boy in an Army uniform watches intently out of the window. A smiling bus driver. An old lady, knitting, gives the boy a wink. And the bus pulls up to a bright red and white diner. He steps out. The piano melody becomes warmer, softer. And there she is. His girl. They embrace. The other passengers watch them, smiling, cheering. The bus pulls away. Greyhound. Because it's good to be home."

Well, you know how this turns out, right? The seasoned copywriter gets the raise; and my friend learns a valuable lesson. One of the first rules of show business: never go first.

I thought of that, this week, when I heard about an actor I know who fired his agent. What he said in public was, well, I just felt like I was a little more in synch with –- and here he named his new agent and his new agency.

But in private, what he was telling everyone was that his old agent was just too negative, just too pessimistic, just too much of a downer. Now what this actor doesn't know -– and what I'm certainly not going to be the one to tell him, either –- is that for the past year or so, his manager -– see, a lot of actors have managers and agents, and sometimes they all get along, but mostly – because of credit issues and producer's fee issues and package fee issues -- they don't get along, and in this case, they didn't, only, the agent didn't know that they didn't –so for the past year, the actor's manager was telling the actor's agent: You know what the actor likes about you? You're honest! You're a straight shooter! You tell it like it is! You're cautious, and you always make sure he's aware of the downside of any decision.

So for the past year, the agent had been really laying it on thick with the actor -– you know, this isn't going to work, this project isn't going to go, that movie is too expensive, that director isn't a fan – until finally, the actor had had enough. So he fired the agent, and told his manager to help him find another one.

Which the manager did. A new agent. One that's upbeat and positive, and especially one that's grateful –- to the manager –- and easygoing -– with the manager –- about things like credit, and package fees, and producer's fees. Which is another one of the show business rules: never let somebody else tell you what somebody else wants.

And that's it for this week. Next week, I ask for help. For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.



Rob Long